Saturday, April 18, 2009

Is desert just another word for douchebag?

I recently had a conversation with someone who told me that upon moving to the southwest they found the folks in the fly fishing community to be overly defensive and combative. Saying in an exaggerated manner that:
"The fly fishing folks from [specific southwestern state] live in virtual isolation from the rest of the fly fishing world. [...] The fly shop owners, the guides, etc. are all unknowns outside of [specific southwestern state], and the reason is and large...these folks are a bunch of closed-minded arrogant jack-asses who really don't know much about the art and sport of fly fishing, but profess themselves the authority on it just the same. And when confronted with some "outsider" who actually knows a thing or two, they become very defensive and hostile, for fear of being exposed for the posers they really are."
This was mostly a joke meant to point out a perceived "regional cultural pitfall" but it got me thinking.... is it true? Are the majority of us poor desert-dwelling fly fishing-fanatics, on some level, just a buncha wannabes afraid of being exposed by those who really know what the sport is all about?

Back in September of 2008, the WSJ wrote an interesting article on regional stereotypes, The United States of Mind.
"Based on more than 600,000 questionnaires and published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, the study maps regional clusters of personality traits, then overlays state-by-state data on crime, health and economic development in search of correlations."

It was accompanied by a neat interactive map which made state-specific data very easy to compare based on the 5 fundamental traits of personality: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. The states were ranked from 1-51 against the other states, 1 being the most of whatever trait. (duh)

The most interesting states right off the bat were Alaska, and North Dakota.

Alaska, it's the top of the US, but the bottom of just about everything. These are a non-socializing, argumentative, close-minded bunch, but they seem to be pretty darn happy about it.

North Dakota folk top the chart as the most outgoing, happy agreeable bunch, just don't ask them to change their opinion about anything.

My home state of Arizona wasn't all that interesting.

Arizonans are pretty happy, a little bit less than average about being agreeable and open to new ideas, and pretty good about throwing our empty beer cans in the trash. One interesting thing I noticed is that of the "four corners" states, (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah) New Mexico seems to be the most Neurotic, at #29, but not that bad overall. While Utah seems to be full of mormons? super happy party-people.

So what does this say about us desert fishermen? I have no idea, I just thought it was interesting. But who knows how the mental state a large group of water obsessed people fairs in a land of sand.

What about where you live? What would your regional fisherman stereotype sound like?

-Alex who believes he is already starting to go mad with crazy.


  1. Geographic Snobbery: the Ultimate Douchbaggery.
    Characterizing Arizona flyfishermen as surly, defensive losers is like blaming black folks in the south for ducking off the roads while walking at night- gee, why would they act that way anyway? Nightriders perhaps?
    We have thick, tough skins like our beloved sahuaro cacti, enduring the jibes from every jackass who moved to Colo., Idaho or Washington state from the midwest or east - who are now the ultimate authorities on all things flyfishing solely because of the state they now reside in.
    Now, there are some folks who moved there just for the fishing and/or hunting, so they may have a bit of moral highground to pontificate from- but let's face it: other than a few snooty trout clubs and highbrow flyshops, if you are a flyfisher, you will probably be treated pretty well here in the scenic desert southwest.
    There are not that many of us to begin with, the shops need the business and will probably not respond in kind when you talk about how great the fishing is where you live - or used to live - and how it sucks here. I find Arizona fishermen to be pretty nice in general. Hell, it;s like a very small town - people are friendly , not so much because they like you , they are just happy to see about anyone.
    Just stay away from the clubs where few if any of these jackholes actually fish.

  2. It doesn't matter what interest you pursue, whether professionally or just for sport, there are going to be close-minded micro-dicks with an overblown sense of self-entitlement in anything you do.

    Snorin - I've lived in numerous western states (including Arizona) and have met both good and bad in every one. Not everyone that moves to another state is a jackass, and you're comment comes awfully close to legitimizing one of the points in this post:

    [And when confronted with some "outsider" who actually knows a thing or two, they become very defensive and hostile, for fear of being exposed for the posers they really are."]

    If we met on a river and you found out I was from Colorado, would you automatically assume I was a jack-ass? Sure would be a shame, 'cause I bet we could both learn a lot from each other...and probably have a kick-ass time in the process, too.

    Close-minded Good Ol' Boys are the reason this sport is stagnant - purists that believe that if you don't use the 'right gear', or if your color or gender doesn't fit the mold, then you're not worth the time of day. Out here in Colorado I run into these dicks all the time - but rather than waste my energy on buying into their bullshit ideals, I focus on beating the water and hooking fish - and if I can do it in front of some these self-absorbed pricks, all the better.

    When the rubber meets the road, it doesn't matter where you live - that's not a measuring stick as to the proficiency of your angling skills or your passion/knowledge of the sport. It's about attitude and how you choose to treat other people.

  3. In answer to your question: no, I would not assume you were a jackass if we met on the water. I have a grand total of maybe 8 hours of fishing Colorado waters and would appreciate whatever information I could glean from a local who put in his time and knew the fishery.
    A little respect and humility go a long way in unlocking the secrets of a new, or even familiar river or lake. I tend to ask folks who are walking off the water, be it an old man or a kid or a yuppie, what is working, what is happening.
    This is a huge subject - too big for one post - but keeping our egos in check and being respectful of fellow flyfishers is a big thing.
    I don't believe my point on geographic snobbery applies to everyone, as there are just too many traveled, competent, ethical fishermen to cast that wide a net.
    Hey, there are cultural differences from one state to another - I won't start on California, as we would probably all bash them, finding common ground, and just reinforce more stereotypes.
    I grew up in the Catskills, 100 miles north of New York City, so I know how the Locals tend to think of City Folk. Many, if not all, of the top flyfishers in the Hudson Valley were not Wall St/Madison Avenue executives, but resident bluecollar guys who put their time in. We could go by the steotypes and call all the eastern flyfishers rich city snobs, but that would not be accurate then, or today.
    My flyfishing ego does include some pride in having develped more skills and understanding of this pursuit over 30 years here in AZ - like I said, we have to be tough - but most of us, even if we know how to flyfish, have plenty to be modest about, especially on unfamiliar water.
    The most brilliant flyfishers I know tend to be pretty simple in their approach, very modest and appreciative about the wonderful places they have been lucky enough to fish.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. hey FGFF,
    great article. my personal opinion is that grass is always greener on the other side.

    most other fly anglers i talk to in the south west are a little bit more stingy when it comes to talking about when and where to fish. but with good reason.

    unlike the northwest or the east coast the southwest has only a handful of decent trout streams so naturally they prefer to try to keep them under the radar.

    but as long as you tell a person that has respect for the outdoors and practices that respect regulary than it shouldn’t matter.

    being a sixth generation Arizonan there’s allot of areas that my family has truly enjoyed and studied and really know. i personally have no problem telling anyone any thing as long as i think your a self respecting person.
    but again that’s my personal opinion.
    really enjoy your blog though! very entertaining


  6. i've been lucky enough to travel a good chunk of the planet and fish in many of the places i visited. and i've been involved in all sorts of outdoors pursuits all of my life. this is an interesting question.

    i think you definitely can pick up on different regional/local attitudes in a general sense as you travel or move from place to place, or when comparing sporting subculture to sporting subculture (ie. deer hunters vs. quail hunters). but these things are generalized observations, and there will always be exceptions everywhere you go, as well as a spectrum of differing degrees within the trend.

    the fly angling community, in general, is extremely familial when compared to most other sporting subcultures. we tend to be less competitive and more genuinely helpful and celebratory of others' successes. when was the last time a hardcore bass fisherman gave up his honeyhole just so a stranger could enjoy fishing there? this actually happens to me with some regularity among fly fishermen.

    i know living in the desert makes ME cranky. so maybe it taints the generally good nature of other fly fishermen out here, too. i do have to say i have met some pretty touchy and cranky fly fishing folks out here, but i've also met a bunch of cranky folks out here who don't fly fish.

  7. Rod, you should come visit here in Colorado. Its sucks right now cuz i just got 3 feet of snow dumped on me but the summers are great

  8. Fat Guy Kyle - you have to admit, the winters aren't all that bad here, either - a few snow storms here and there, but for the most part, it's pretty decent. Although this last storm really sucked major ass.

  9. Anonymous4:41 PM

    'Sucked major ass' is the understatement of the month. What a freak chunk of weather screwing up virtually everything for two days. Shortlived, however...just look out the window.

    FGFF - The fact that you folks can live in non-prime territory and still seek out places to satisfy your fishing urges speaks volumes for your love of the sport. Personally, I expect to find more unfriendly neuroses in prime locations versus your neck of the woods. People get way too full of themselves when success is just a short drive away - sadly they don't realize their ability to catch fish is more a factor of their environment than any skill they possess.

  10. Rod- It is a good thing that Kyle is such a modest guy. If he wasn't, we probably be "enduring the jibes" from him!

    ivan- thanks for the compliments. I think the grass is only in our heads, and it is as green as we want it to be. Also, I am a self respecting person, so I expect a list of all the great Arizona waters you know of, how to get to them, and what catches fish there :)

    MG- there may be more "unfriendly neuroses" in the prime locations, but I have a suspicion that there are more crazies where fishing ain't so hot.

  11. Well, any blanket statement that covers too much general ground is sort of close-minded in itself but...

    I would guess the person in the above conversation was meeting a lot of people streamside-- and fishermen in any numbers aren't exactly what you want to see when arriving to a fishin' hole.

    Here in Reno I've met all sorts-- dickheads and friendly information-sharers alike. Me? I KNOW I'm a jack-ass noob and will probably continue to act like one even if I somehow become magically accomplished. (You never know who you might glean some information from that comes in really handy).

    But, hey, take it with a grain of salt being that I'm a close-minded, neurotic, mildly conscientious albeit agreeable nevadan haha

    --brian j

  12. Not related to this. Just wanted to say thanks for linking to the blog!

  13. hey alex,(FGFF)

    well im not sure if you have been able to view the little blog i keep updated at but i im pretty open to where it is i prefer to fish and what i use on that blog. being in school still and working full time. im limited to the local streams here in payson. so not many out of state trips or white mountains. but the few streams under the rim do produce some very worth while fishing trips. but if you ever make your way to the rim area id love to give you some info about where your heading if you need any. also if you would want to meet up for the day or an afternoon im all in.
    again love your blog
    ivan (FCFF)

    p.s. sure you wouldnt mind, but i was wandering if it be ok to link your blog to mine?

  14. link away, my friend!


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